The move was made after an
interagency review of the Bush administration's position on the nonbinding
document, which was signed by all 27 European Union members as well as
The officials spoke on condition of
anonymity because Congress was still being notified of the decision. They said
the administration had decided to sign the declaration to demonstrate that the
"As such, we join with the other supporters of this statement and we will continue to remind countries of the importance of respecting the human rights of all people in all appropriate international fora," the official said.
The official added that the United States was concerned about "violence and human rights abuses against gay, lesbian, transsexual and bisexual individuals" and was also "troubled by the criminalization of sexual orientation in many countries."
"In the words of the United States Supreme Court, the right to be free from criminalization on the basis of sexual orientation 'has been accepted as an integral part of human freedom'," the official said.
Gay rights and other groups had
criticized the Bush administration when it refused to sign the declaration when
it was presented at the United Nations on Dec. 19.
According to negotiators, the Bush team had concerns that those parts could commit the federal government on matters that fall under state jurisdiction. In some states, landlords and private employers are allowed to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation; on the federal level, gays are not allowed to serve openly in the military.
It was not immediately clear on Tuesday how the Obama administration had come to a different conclusion.
When it was voted on in December, 66 of the U.N.'s 192 member countries signed the declaration — which backers called a historic step to push the General Assembly to deal more forthrightly with anti-gay discrimination.
But 70 U.N. members outlaw homosexuality — and in several, homosexual acts can be punished by execution. More than 50 nations, including members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, opposed the declaration.
Some Islamic countries said at the
time that protecting sexual orientation could lead to "the social
normalization and possibly the legalization of deplorable acts" such as
pedophilia and incest. The declaration was also opposed by the